Archive for July, 2013

Still on Highway 411

Herald-News July 31, 2013

“Your people will be my people, and your God my God.” Ruth 1:16

Do you know any good Mother-in-Law jokes?

If someone told me a good one, I would laugh if it was funny. But I would want to follow-up by saying how great my mother-in-law is. Yes, we tease each other all the time—I, of course, respectfully…though she chuckles at her put-downs, insults, and wisecracks about me.

My own mother died just before I married Mom’s firstborn. I deeply loved my biological mother, but life with her was complicated and I was immature. It’s been much simpler with Mom—she just lives righteously, loves deeply, and asks nothing in return. We’ve gotten along pretty well these forty plus years, and she is just Mom to me.

That points to something especially admirable about Mom (Dad, too). She just accepts “outlaws” into her life and family. She has a devoted and very successful biological son. But I never feel like a bench player. I’m part of the starting lineup. Now, Cheryl and I get to do this with our own sons-in-law. How good to have a pattern to follow.

Cheryl and I just came back from traveling with Mom and Dad to see their granddaughter and great grandkids. We traveled well together, sharing stories and ideas for many hours over many interstates. Mom’s zest for life was evident all weekend. Once, in the car, I could almost feel her eyes twinkle as we traveled Highway 411—the same road she did with Dad six decades ago. She crowed over the Robin’s egg-blue Mercury she first dated Dad in. She was a newly-wed all over again as she gushed over their second car, a 1938 Ford. She was especially delighted about the rumble seat. I can see her hair blowing in the wind as they traveled up Highway 411 through Fairmont, Georgia, on the way to see her parents in Flintstone. She’s still quite the romantic. (Could that, in part, be why Cheryl is that way, too?)

She’s got a North American continent-sized heart for people in need. She is a passionate patriot. She loves Jesus.

Saturday, she wanted to see her granddaughter’s big garden. The ground was uneven and Mom grabbed my arm to steady her. I liked that a lot.

Mom follows a renowned biblical list of in-laws. I guess the most famous coupling including a mother-in-law would be Ruth and Naomi. It’s a sad time in history when families mistreat or neglect each other. Naomi had in-laws that abandoned her. But Scripture says Ruth followed her. The bitterness of Naomi at her losses and needs was silenced when the loyalty and determination of Ruth became clear. Naomi took an outsider into her life and heart.

If you have in-laws of any sort, treat them like a biblical Ruth and Naomi would. Loyal. Attached. Sacrificial. Like Mom.

Mom’s name is Jewel. And she is one.

Every Thought Captive

Every Thought Captive

The Herald News
July 17, 2013

When she hasn’t slept well, Cheryl will often say it was because her “mind was whirling.” No wonder it spins! She does Sudoku for fun (I can’t imagine). She is an educator with an unquenchable thirst for learning and personal growth. She stays awake reading books in bed—“It relaxes me,” she says—while I go to sleep as soon as I open a book. Without question, she is always thinking passionately about several vital, core pursuits: kids, Jesus, and our family. By this small sample you can see she has a fruitful minefield of whirling possibilities.

On the other hand, I am not nearly as smart as Cheryl and when my mind keeps me up it is more mundane. Last night I couldn’t sleep because I was thinking about…a toilet…for the second night.

I am not Mr. Fix-it. But since I am rapidly advancing in quantity of years, I have serviced enough cheap plumbing to learn how to fix very simple problems—as long as the standard parts don’t change. This time they did. So, I am up nights, mind-whirling over old style parts that don’t fit in a new-fangled commode. Groan.

Back to minds that whirl (or not). Brain-everything is the fad: memory research, brain assessments, brain games, neurological institutes, brain fitness, and brain training. I recently saw this short list of brain fix-its: Learn something stimulating; sleep more than six hours a night; eat the right foods; challenge yourself by memorizing things like names; exercise with a friend. They didn’t mention repair privies…

I have great respect for Cheryl’s mind and the way she grows it. God certainly has life-shaping words about our minds and how important they are, for example:

* “For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.”

* “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Isn’t it interesting that Jesus added “mind” to this “great commandment”?

* “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”

Applications are many and profound. For example: Do I grasp the importance of truthful, helpful, convincing, convicting, healing thoughts in personal and congregational worship? Also, clearly one thing that distinguishes followers of Christ is we don’t empty our minds—we learn and engage truth and “take every thought captive to the mind of Christ.” Finally, How much time do I allow anti-Scriptural principles, ideas, activities, and thoughts to fill my day?

I saw this phrase that may slow me down in order to speed up a lifestyle of God-thoughts: “It takes time and intention and a slow, sustained gaze.” That’s especially helpful for folks like me who are rapidly advancing in quantity of years and can’t even spell “Sudoku” without help!

The Pocket

For those who read this column but don’t live here (Thank You), The Pocket is an accessible and much-loved wilderness area nearby. A creek is the centerpiece, bursting with high rocks and miniature waterfalls, and, at times, wide enough to almost be a river.

If you hike far enough there is Laurel Falls. Along the way there are remnants of a storied mining past. Civil War history is everywhere around this region, and The Pocket was part of it. I imagine soldiers hiding among the rocks and caves, trying to stay warm and calm their hunger.

The oldest grandkids are with us this week without their parents. Wonderful! Wilder, all boy at nearly seven, and Adeline, lovely and smart beyond words at nine years old, were in heaven as we strolled The Pocket. I would call our time a hike but there wasn’t anything rigorous about two kids stopping at every stone and outlook. Flatlanders from lower Georgian, they love The Pocket. Their favorite thing really isn’t the trail—they love getting into the creek.

I was reminded of several God-things as we ambled along and played.

First, about children: They are explorers and adventurers and creators. Why is it so many of us grow up to be inhibited, fearful, and addicted to trivial and dangerous things? Cheryl and I laughed openly—and held our breath—as we watched our grands respond to The Pocket. Wonder oozed with every giggle. Creativity came naturally to them as every little rock became a missile, every high rock a mountain to conquer.

It is said, “A baby boy has a way of making a man out of his father and a boy out of his grandfather.” Yes, I threw rocks, too, passionately, successfully ensuring the kids went home wet!

Jesus gave a high value to children. The simplicity of their faith and their joy in His presence touched Him—and He had harsh words for those who minimalized them. May children teach us to love Him unashamedly.

Back to the rocks. Unlimited and everywhere, Adeline and Wilder threw stones into the creek without stopping. No stone was safe from drowning. The noisy, stunning water is usually the first line of focus. To adults, rocks are mundane and expected. Not so to the kids!

But rocks illustrate important biblical truths. In the absence of genuine worship, Jesus noted in Luke 19, the stones will cry out. Peter said, “…you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” God wonderfully offers new life to those who receive His Son.

The big idea isn’t the rocks, The Pocket, or even the kids (as delightful as they are to brag about). The point is the One who made it all. May we adore Him all day, everywhere, every day!

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